I find myself almost immediately conjuring up images of the rising sun on a beautiful day whenever I hear Edvard Grieg's Morning Mood, as do I think most people I know if they were to hear it (although I don't know whether this association is cross-cultural). The piece is practically synonymous with the dawn of a new day, and I'm wondering whether that is because I think it sounds like dawn, or because I have been conditioned to associate it with the dawn.
In a similar vein, other compositions can make me think of running water, a cold winter, or the twinkling depths of space. It most often occurs with the use of a full orchestra, but I find some pieces for individual instruments can do it also.
Is there a word or phrase to describe a piece of music being reminiscent of something like 'morning' or a season? And is this association through conditioning or something natural to the human mind?
I suspect it is through conditioning for something like Morning Mood, but then that begs the question of who first thought it sounded like the morning (probably Greig) and why they thought it sounded like the morning rather than something else. This seems to lead into soundtrack composition, where composers want to use the ambient music to convey a mood or describe a setting. How do they decide what sounds like 'sadness', or what makes a scene 'tense', and how/why do we interpret those musical cues the same way they did when writing it? Why does a 'hopeful' or 'melancholy' piece still sounds that way even without the visual aid of the scene it accompanies is what I'm trying to ask, and is there a word that describes this phenomenon?